A Man of Good Deeds

by Armandine F. Kelly

St. Nicholas icon written by Livia Mirela Miron, Romania
St. Nicholas Center Collection

Feast of Saint Nicholas, December 6

Saint Nicholas was born around the year 270 C.E., on a farm near the town of Patara in what is now southwestern Turkey. He was his parents only child and was born to them after many years of marriage. They were good people who always helped the poor. They died in a plague when Nicholas was still a boy. After their deaths he continued their good deeds by using his inheritance to help anyone in need.

As a young teenager, Nicholas secretly helped an old friend of the family whose daughters were unable to marry for lack of a dowry. Late one night Nicholas threw a bag of gold into the oldest daughter's window. Later he did the same for the two younger daughters when it was time for them to marry. On the third occasion, Nicholas was discovered by the girl's father, but Nicholas made him promise never to tell who had done these good deeds.

Nicholas traveled to Jerusalem to pray and study. On his return trip, which normally took about a week, his ship was caught in a great storm. Everyone on board feared that the ship would sink and they asked Nicholas to pray. He did so, for two days and two nights. At dawn on the third day they found themselves in a safe harbor near the town of Myra, not far from where Nicholas was born.

After the bishop of Myra died, the people gathered to elect a new bishop. Someone had a dream in which God told him that the new bishop should be whoever entered the church first in the morning. Knowing nothing of this Nicholas went to church early the next day as he often did, and so he was made bishop. It was not long before he was loved and respected by all the people. 

One year there was a famine in Myra, and people began to starve. Nicholas promised the people that God would provide for them. Soon a fleet of ships bound for Constantinople and loaded with grain was forced to dock at Myra because of bad weather. Nicholas was able to convince the ship's captain to provide the town with a year's worth of grain. When the ships finally reached Constantinople, they were miraculously filled with grain.

Saint Nicholas spent three years in jail. He was imprisoned during the persecution of the Emperor Diocletian and was released only after Constantine became the first Christian Emperor in the year 324. Not long after that, Nicholas attended the famous Church Council at Niceae. During this meeting he got into an argument and punched one of his fellow attendees. He was taken out and put into a room by himself overnight until he calmed down. Later he was permitted to return to the meeting. The person he hit was named Arius, a famous preacher whose teachings were later condemned by the Council.

During the last years of his life Nicholas continued to endear himself to people by his preaching, his concern for the poor and his love of children. He died on December 6, in the year 343 and was buried at the cathedral in Myra. Many centuries later, when the country was no longer Christian, his body was taken to the town of Bari in Italy, where it remains to this day.

The best way to celebrate the Feast of Saint Nicholas is to do a good deed for someone. That is what he was always doing, even if he did once get into a fight.

Adapted from Seasonal Stories for Family Festivals by Armandine F. Kelly, Resource Publications, 1987, pages 117-119. The author grants permission to read the article but not to publish it. 

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